[NetBehaviour] Overland: Necessary improvisation-> brilliantinterlude

Ruth Catlow ruth.catlow at furtherfield.org
Mon Sep 14 12:55:24 CEST 2009

Hi Manik,

RUTH CATLOW: " I can't interpret the tone of their laughing and


I recorded "the tone" in my head but unfortunately I was out of
electricity (again) for making digital sound recordings. 

Though It's a nice idea....perhaps...to make field recordings of
'foreign' overland travel and request translations or interpretations
(at least of tone if not literally word for word) from other native
speakers on the list. 

Also Helen suggested that I look into solar powering my laptop and found
some good links for DIY solutions. Though I can't find the links any
more. Anyone else got any experience with this?

: )

-----Original Message-----
From: manik <manik at sbb.rs>
Reply-To: manik <manik at sbb.rs>
To: ruth.catlow at furtherfield.org, NetBehaviour for networked distributed
creativity <netbehaviour at netbehaviour.org>
Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] Overland: Necessary improvisation->
Date: Mon, 14 Sep 2009 00:57:57 +0200

" I can't interpret the tone of their laughing and joking."

        ----- Original Message ----- 
        From: Ruth Catlow 
        To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity 
        Sent: Sunday, September 13, 2009 9:17 PM
        Subject: [NetBehaviour] Overland: Necessary improvisation->
        Back-blogging Friday 11th September
        (or read with links here
        http://blog.furtherfield.org/?q=node/307 )
        On Thursday morning I'm gutted that (due to the extra time taken
        by my overland travel plans) that I can't stay for the whole
        of /ETC which ends on Sunday. I'm also nervous about making the
        solo trip home. When I arrive at Haymatlos I am told that last
        night's storms have damaged the international rail lines out of
        Turkey so badly that trains are not expected to run for at least
        the next 15 days. So I am super grateful when Begum quickly
        finds and books me a cheap, alternative route to Sophia by bus
        that will allow me to catch my reserved train connection in
        Bucharest. I am still unnerved though. I was starting to get the
        hang of the trains and it's the endless unfamiliarity that is
        especially taxing.
        I (rather naughtily) leave Aileen to run the Drupal workshop in
        the morning, in order to brunch with Rob. His good gossip and a
        plate of excellent food cheers me up no end. When he hears that
        I now have a 4 hour gap in Sophia between my bus arriving and my
        train leaving he also puts me in touch with a Bulgarian artist
        Petko Dourmana at a media arts agency there called Inter-space.
        The day is over in a flash. The feedback I receive for my
        presentation on Zero Dollar Laptop (a project that we have been
        developing in partnership with Access Space) was serious, tough
        and very helpful. I give my presentation, have a great
        discussion and then it's time for me to go. I hug Aileen (who I
        will miss like mad) and others good bye and they all go off to a
        nearby private view as part of the Biennial. I am left feeling
        momentarily abandoned, abject and mad with anxiety as I gather
        my effects.
        I trail to the local bus station but it turns out that the
        service bus to the main coach station won't leave for another
        hour so I attempt to ease my nerves with banana and chocolate
        pancakes. It works!...temporarily. When we reach the main
        station I feel very self-conspicuous. Most passengers seem like
        locals and I cannot spot either any women traveling on their own
        or any tourists. I'm not sure I would have chosen tea drinking
        as my technique for remaining inconspicuous if I had known that
        there would not be a toilet on the coach. Agonising about what I
        would do when my bladder reached bursting point when thankfully
        we stopped at services. This ride across the country to the
        Bulgarian border appears to cross miles of almost-wilderness. I
        see very view lights or electricity pylons but humanity is
        evident every ten seconds in the billboards for 'Merilyn'
        cigarettes (with a picture of Marilyn Munroe) or vodka endorsed
        by Bruce Willis or some such.
        Apparently coaches present the least environmentally harmful
        mode of long distance public transport. However from this
        passenger's perspective this ride was only tolerable because I
        was one of the very lucky few to have two seats to myself and so
        could lie down (in a twisty kind of way) and get some kip.
        We arrive in Sophia at about 8am and I get a bit of a fright. It
        appears that I have missed the only train to Bucharest which
        left at 7.45. I try a different tack with the (English speaking)
        woman at the information desk. Looking at the map I notice that
        the Bucharest route is rather a long way round and ask if I can
        go direct to Budapest and pick up my next train connection from
        there instead. She shakes her head sympathetically but I persist
        and ask if there is no way for me to go through Belgrade
        instead. Bingo! She has assumed for some reason that I would not
        want to cross the Serbian border. I don't know why, but it is
        intriguing- something to find out about. Anyway it is all sorted
        and she seems amused by my delight at not having to stay a night
        in Sophia. But my train is at 11.55 and the reservation costs
        about €11.
        With Petko I enjoy a brilliant interlude and am rescued from
        more undisciplined eating and introspection. He takes me on a
        tour of scenic Sophia, buys me an espresso coffee and purveys
        more local and National Bulgarian history than I can absorb. He
        tells me that the remarkable thing about Bulgaria today is that
        it "has no enemies". Petko has also returned recently from a 3
        day each-way, overland trek to Dublin for ISEA. He travelled
        with family in a car that he has reconditioned to be fueled by
        recycled vegetable oil. This lowers its carbon emissions and
        reduces to zero other harmful exhaust fumes. He says the
        traveling was 'awful'. We share a common fascination with
        post-apocalypse fiction: McCarthy's The Road, Wyndam's Day of
        the Triffids etc. At ISEA he was showing an installation called
        Post Global Warming Survival Kit which drew on post apocalyptic
        scenarios of human survival after a nuclear winter. It takes a
        dark (but to my mind plausible) view of contemporary politics of
        the state and the corporation. The audience experience the film
        landscapes that surround them in the installation through night
        vision glasses.
        I have to rush to catch my train but am left with a very
        pleasant impression of Sophia and its people.
        During the train ride back through Bulgaria, from Turkey to
        Serbia, we travel through wide valleys ranged by distant hills
        and I am reminded by Rob's anecdote about the artist Christo, to
        think about why, from the perspective of a rail traveler, there
        may appear to be no wilderness in Western Europe and very little
        in Eastern Europe. Apparently Christo's large scale land works
        were inspired by the summers he spent in his youth, arranging
        bails of hay on either side of the railway track to create an
        impression of productivity and abundance in Communist Bulgaria.
        Of course; people and the landscape will be changed in all
        manner of ways in response to the presence of the railway line.
        Boarding the train a young woman is so disturbed by the prospect
        of sharing a carriage with me to Belgrade that she pays the
        conductor the equivalent of £25. All she says to me is "its so
        stressful", and looks really stressed, so I say I understand,
        try not to take it personally and build myself a nest on the
        lower bunk with blankets and pillows.
        Can Autumn have really arrived in the 5 days since I was last
        traveling this way? Occasional brown-leaf trees that I didn't
        notice before. I want to soak up the surroundings as we travel
        through Serbia but I'm tired and a bit lonesome and so instead I
        stretch out on my bed, finish my novel, Alan Garner's Thursbitch
        and dream of a sentient landscape in which the leaves of trees
        are reaching down like hands. While I sleep we travel through
        Belgrade, where the carriages and engine are reconfigured with
        mechanical crunches and violent jolts. I am unsettled by Serbian
        soldiers hanging out and inadvertently bumping and kicking the
        door of my sleeper- I can't interpret the tone of their laughing
        and joking.
        We Won't Fly For Art!
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